Aboriginal People in the Trades: Steve Triska

 Steve Triska

Steve Triska

When Steven Triska started studying to be an Industrial Mechanic, he knew it would take him four years to get his Red Seal in the trade. But to Steven, it was worth the commitment. Now he has his Red Seal, has four years’ work experience as an Industrial Mechanic, and is making a good wage.

“I always wanted to work in a trade,” said Steven. “You only take your trade for four years and then you are at your top pay rate immediately. I have seen friends go to university and it can take longer than four years to get good pay.”

Becoming an Industrial Mechanic wasn’t a straight route out of high school for Steven. It wasn’t until after he spent some time in the Navy that he reached out to the NB Power Liaison Officer. The liaison was looking to hire Aboriginal people and he was offered a position immediately.

In order to start right away, Elsipogtog Economic Development funded training for Steven to become a Linesman with NB Power. However, after a year of Linesman training, he took an aptitude test and moved to the Industrial Mechanic trade where he was indentured into the Apprenticeship program.

The training consisted of both classroom and on-the-job training. Each block takes about one year and there are four blocks to become certified. Classroom training lasts 6 - 7 weeks and then the rest of the block is spent in on-the-job training. Because Steven was an NB Power employee at this time, he was paid while in class and on-the-job.

Steven has been working for four years on the turbines at the Mactaquac Dam.

In general, an industrial mechanic maintains, troubleshoots, overhauls and repairs stationary industrial equipment. They interpret drawings, follow layouts and assemble parts until they are working perfectly.

“I like where I work,” said Steven. “It’s rewarding. When you get started on a project, you see it on paper, you put it all together and then everything is running correctly. I also like the team environment. You learn from each other so it is good that way. The best part of the job is job security and knowing that you are essential to the company.”

Steven explained that that isn’t the case for all Industrial Mechanics. “If you get on with a company, you maintain a plant and work 40 hours/ week. If you work for the union, the work is as you are needed. It’s about a 50/50 split. It’s harder to get on with a company than it is to get into the union but many guys prefer the extra money you make while working union jobs.”

When asked about his plans for the future, Steven replied, “NB Power has a lot of options. Baby boomers are leaving and being a supervisor or senior tradesperson are options for younger people now. Or I could also go into public relations for First Nations in an office environment. The career counselors at NB Power help lay out your options for you. It’s nice to have options. NB power is good for that.”

Steven’s advice for anyone starting out in the trades is clear: it’s about commitment.

“If you get a job offer and have to move out of your community for four years, make the commitment. There’s work but you often have to move for it. Commit for the duration of your license, then you can move where you want afterwards. I started the program with a group who wouldn’t move to get their hours and now none of them are working in the trade anymore. It’s only a four year period to get your hours, just commit to it.”